Delhi is where I grew up: I came out [of the closet], met my friends, and learned a lot here,” shares artist Aditya Raj (30) from Chittaranjan Park. It is this love for the city that prompted Raj to make it his muse, and portray the nuances and characteristics of different parts of Delhi on canvas. His ongoing project started as a part of Inktober, a social media trend by artists around the world wherein they make an illustration each day of the month. “The Inktober series was a way of archiving my love for the city,” Raj shares. The artist tries recapturing the mundane nooks and corners of the Capital, and converts these into memorable spaces through his brush strokes.
A Jaipur native, Raj came to pursue his law degree in the city. Inclined towards painting from a young age, he decided to turn his passion into a profession shortly after graduation. “It was 2014, and a friend suggested I showcase a few of my previous works at an exhibition,” shares the self-taught artist. His first solo show at Fursat Se Cafe in Shahpur Jat received a positive response and it “kind of made me realise that I could pursue this full-time.”
Chronicles of love
Artists are often intrigued by the history of Delhi. Be it the grandeur associated with the visually-stunning forts, palaces, and memorials or the towering minarets of the mosques, as well as the lush green spaces that the city boasts of, there are many places that add to the ‘heritage’ here. However, Raj decided to steer clear from these “historic” aspects all while focusing on the iconic yet everyday sites.
“Whenever you think of paintings of Delhi, you usually see heritage monuments. While I understand their beauty and the need to document these, there are so many spaces that remain unseen and unheard of. I wanted to capture such places and show the true essence of Delhi.”
The series that features a number of places in Delhi—Faqir Chand & Sons, a book store at Khan Market; Karim’s Hotel, a historic restaurant located near Jama Masjid; Rikhi Ram Musical Instruments Originals situated in Connaught Place; Kuremal Mohanlal Kulfi, a dessert corner established over a 140 years ago in Chawri Bazar; among others—also consists of those that Raj has built a connection with over time.
“I painted Nirula’s, the first restaurant that I visited in the city after arriving here. My sister took me there for lunch and their Hot Chocolate Fudge just took my breath away.” Similarly, his sketch of Delite Cinema near Delhi Gate also has a story behind it. “Along with the fact that the theatre has a history of its own, it was here that I got to see a special preview of Sridevi’s Mom. My partner and I are both huge Sridevi fans, and to have seen a preview of her last film will always hold a special place in my heart,” shares Raj.
Many of the paintings in this series are of sites recommended by those who follow Raj’s work on social media. “Once I started posting my paintings online, a lot of people started sharing their connections with these places along with other places I could visit and document. What started as a personal challenge bloomed into a community project.” Given the response his paintings have received on social media, Raj is now reproducing his work in the form of prints. Over time, he plans to create a coffee table compiling these images.